[photo] I began helping in my father's legal practice as a copy typist and office boy during the school holidays in the late 1950s and continued throughout my teens, gradually taking on more responsibilities. After an honours degree in philosophy from Warwick University, a post-graduate teaching certificate from Birmingham University, and a 2-month teaching career, I returned to the firm as a clerk in 1972 while I decided what to do next, and stayed on. In the days before compulsory attendance at law school I put myself through the Law Society's exams while working in the practice part-time. When I qualified in 1979 I remained as assistant solicitor and took over the practice on my father's sudden death the following year.

My father would take on nearly everything, and I learnt as I went: we did private and commercial conveyancing, landlord-and-tenant work, family law, employment, wills, probate, and a wide range of litigation. Later in my career I did occasional semi-voluntary work for the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (The Law Society's disciplinary arm), considering the justice and severity of complaints and in minor cases conciliating between solicitors and their dissatisfied clients, helping them where I could to resolve their differences.

I joined Clarity when it was formed in 1983 and at about the same time began converting my firm's documents into plain English, establishing a policy which brought new clients and valuable work. Over the years I gradually reduced the scope of the practice to act as a plain drafting consultant and to teach plain legal writing, in the UK and overseas, to lawyers, law students, and legal translators.

In 1988 I married Jan, whom I had first known by sight when we were on the same ethics course at university and who later became a friend when we met by coincidence.

I retired in 2007 and soon afterwards Jan and I moved to a hamlet in the southern French mountains. I try to keep away from the computer for much of the day: looking after our animals; extreme gardening (fighting gravity on steep, thinly-soiled rock slopes); attending to chores; and reading more than I've ever had time for in the past.

But I still take an active interest in improving legal writing, focusing most recently on the contributions that the study of linguistics can make. One of the reviewers of the 3rd edition of Clarity for Lawyers has recruited me as co-author of his own partly-written book, and we are working on that together.

My work for Clarity and PLAIN

I joined Clarity when John Walton founded it in 1983. I volunteered for the committee at the first meeting the following year and enjoyed being on it until 2010, when a radical change of management style and fundamental policy differences made my resignation inevitable.

I served as membership secretary from 1987; editor of the newsletter from 1987 through its evolution into a more formal journal; founding webmaster from 1997; and chairman from 1989 to 94 and again from 1996. I retired from all those posts except webmaster in 2000 to spend more time with my practice.

For the next 10 years I developed the website and (when they asked) advised my successors — who called themselves "presidents" — as part of what grew into an "ex-presidents' group". During that period I began the custom of sending news-emails to members, acted as liaison between Clarity and PLAIN (Plain Language Association International), and for a time represented Clarity on the International Plain Language Working Group.

I joined the PLAIN board of directors when PLAIN was incorporated in 2008 but stepped down a year later, defeated by the obligation to attend the phone-conference meetings late into the night.